I turned 58 years old last week. That’s right, on September 10, 1957 my mother gave birth to a baby boy in Springfield, Missouri. Her journey and the one my siblings and I traveled throughout my childhood and teen years was an interesting one. My dad was a Southern Baptist minister. If I remember correctly, in my 18 years at home, prior to leaving for college, we moved at least every couple of years. Dad had a penchant for moving. I still get a good laugh from people when I voice the phrase, “My parents moved but I found them.” It really happened. When I was in college I called home multiple times (this was prior to cell phones being in everyone’s hands) and got a message each time stating that the line had been disconnected. When I called my sister’s house to find out what was wrong with my parent’s phone, she told me they’d moved. I later found out that they’d tried to contact me but couldn’t get ahold of me. Dad didn’t hesitate heading to the next place God called him to and I’m glad for that. We should all follow God’s leading no matter what. You may ask, “What does that have to do with this blog post?”. Let me explain. Each of us has had some past experiences that causes emotional triggers to go off. Mine is being, “the left out one.” Because we moved so often, we really didn’t build many deep friendships which meant being, “the left out one,” happened quite often. When an elementary age schoolmate was inviting kids to their birthday parties and I was in the room, I waited and wondered to see if I’d get an invite. Many times I didn’t. When my junior high peers were talking about who would get a ride with whose mom to go to a movie, seldom did anyone turn to me to see if I needed a ride or would like to go. When I was a teenager and my classmates were discussing what party they were headed to that night, I never even considered that the discussion would turn its head in my direction. Please know, I’m not whining or crying for your sympathy. In fact, I believe God used these experiences to shape me into an inclusive person. If I’m in a room full of people and see a lonely person, I have a penchant to reach out to them. If I’m on my way to lunch with someone and I speak with anyone I know who is alone on the route to the car, that person will be invited to join us. That is, unless lunch that day is a professional lunch meeting. God uses our past painful experiences to shape us for His good while the enemy uses our past painful experiences to hurt us even more deeply. Due to my own ignorance, I ate lunch alone on my birthday. The enemy screamed, “See, you deserve to be left out.” “Nobody really cares about a guy whose 58!” “You aren’t a very likeable guy, Howerton.” Then God whispered, “I love you more than you’ll ever know. I love you so much that I included you in my list of eternal friends and surrounded you with many friends who are also your brothers.” Then He brought to mind a long list of people in offices within 40 feet of me and on floors within 5 minutes of me who are great friends of mine and an even longer list of people over the 58 years of my life who would die for me… like He did. I’m one lucky old guy!